The Vision


La vraie honette, casse les coures

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Allow me now to invite you into my daring. So full of fear for the unguided future have I become, I have dared to see a different way.

See this thing gentlemen:

I stand upon the walls of stone. I look over the landscape covered with snow and pull my coat closer about my shoulders as a frigid wind buffets my beard. I turn to look in the courtyard. The Plebians have long since cleared the snow and all runs as it should: the air hazy with the weather and activity below. I slowly walk down the steps to the courtyard, my heels clicking on the granite; the smell of horse dung and steel meet my nostrils. The smith is running smoothly and the herds are being exercised. I look to the clock tower, I have ten minutes to my next class.

The cobbles make the familiar sound in protest to my boots as I march past the kitchen en route to my class. Two plebians are standing idle behind the Chef's entrance. This is unacceptable.

"Brothers, what the hell are you not doing?" I shout to the startled plebians,

"Sir, we have been given a moment's respite." The taller pimply boy scratches his hairless head under its itchy woolen cap. The other stood at perfect attention, ready for command.

"By whom?" I bark, the epitome of command.

"By Master of Culinary Art Wissenmann." The short, stocky german kid replies with clipped, clean english. his woolen robe caught in the wind to fight at his cleanly laced boots. I am impressed with the short german boy; I must challenge the taller arabian.

"You, recite the difference of squares principle of the quadratic theorem of number theory." I told them all upon induction that they will be responsible for the knowledge to which they are exposed.

"SIr, a minus b quantity squared is equal to a squared negative two a b plus b squared." The taller boy knew his mistake as soon as he said it.

"Plus!? Did you say plus? Are you thinking that the sign is separate from the operation in this case?" I must exaggerate, it produces an environment to foster mastery.

"...uh, no sir..." The arabian stammers, falling back into arabic.

"Excuse me plebian?" I yell in his native tounge, "Perhapse you require more training?"

"Yes sir." He responds intelligently in perfect latin. He has passed my test, and narrowly averted punishment.

"Well said brother, the two of you will be required to work in the fuller's shop for two weeks. Report to the Master of Plebians this evening." I reward their work with more work - that is the plebian life. They look disappointed.

"It is a privilage to assist a master in his craft, brothers." I recite one of the plebian philosophies.

"It is a greater privilage to be surpassed in mastery by one's student." They respond in perfect unison.

"Well played. Cigarette?" I offer and receive one acceptance. I light the boy's smoke and smile as I turn around. They live purposefully spartan, utilitarian lives and it causes them to reach their own potential. They both show great potential.

 I quicken my pace, that exchange was worth the time it cost the three of us. I mount the steel staircase to the second floor promenade and head directly for my classroom. I see that the first years are all on time, still erect from their five year tenure as plebians.

"Good morning gentlemen," I announce politely as I enter.

"Good morning Master Miles." they respond in disciplined unison.

"I trust that all have come prepared for our discussion of the JEPD documentary hypothesis of the Pentateuch. First year Smythe, summarize the history of this hypothesis, in Middle English Iambic Pentameter." We've no time for pleasantries in First Year Literature.

"end so I truth enlargenen might..." The stocky Sudanian twenty-something began his improvisation. This gentleman will be acting the part of Oedipus in his class' production of the Oedipus Cycle in a few weeks. I am impressed with his lyric abilities, though his rhetoric lacks in conviction. I will reason that out of him soon enough.

After three hours of discussing the history, nature, rammifcations and plausibility of the JEPD hypothesis, in various tounges, All are given leave for the noon meal. Today should be a robust beef stew with fresh greens and hot bread, washed down with our good day-lager. The gentlemen of my class respectfully shake my hand as they file out of the class into the library.

I follow the last man and proceed to the railing of the second floor promenade interior. I run my hands over the polished rose granite and inhale the fresh aroma of roses, lilacs and handmade paper. The lamps create an ethreal glow in sharp contrast to the pure sunlight from the glass and steel dome, four floors higher than my place at the edge of the atrium. Several plebians busy themselves at manuscripting tables, copying ancient scrolls and clay tablets onto a like medium, with original methods. A few plebians sit amongst second and third years on one of the many suspended platforms, enjoying hand-bound books as they relax on hammock chairs. Only in the library is it permissable for such fraternization to take place.

The entire academy is extremely class divided based upon achievement and  tenure at the academy but, the library is the only place wherein all are considered equal men in the pursuit of knowledge and excellence. The only exception to this rule is the Sabbat meal, which all must take in the grand hall as a family-otherwise the patricians customarily take food in their rooms, or in one of the other more private dining rooms; and the plebians are always required to dine in the plebian dining hall, as well as provide all necessary food service to the rest of the academy.

Today I will take my noon meal in the Patricians' Hall. I begin to walk around the promenade, electing not to take the steel bridge directly across the chasm to my destination. As I walk I admire the countless shelves of hand made books, printed in our gutenberg shop; I brush past a plebian standing before a scroll cubby, muttering to himself.

"Excuse me brother." I whisper politely- he knods with a half smile. I smile to myself as I continue on. That boy was no more than sixteen, he came here about a year ago as a young fool with no direction save self-defeat. Now he was so engrossed with finding a copy of some ancient text; he hardly noticed the man who had slapped him numberless times in training. I chuckled to think of the useless little rebel becoming a force of intelligence and honor in such a short time.

As I near the door to the Patricians' wing, I stop to watch the collision of a plebian and a fourth year. The impact sends them both to the floor, books, pens and papers flying. They both quietly mutter apologies and begin to retrieve eachother's things from the muralized granite. The plebian retrieves the fourth year's stylus from a depiction of the fall of Istanbul, while the fourth year obtains the plebian's copy of "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" and "Blood Sweat and Tears," both reproduced hand-bound books, from "The Roman Retribution on Sparticus," a bloody painting of many, many crucifii. Within seconds the collision is repaired and both are off to study. I smile and proceed to the enormous door.

As I approach the Patrician's wing I can't help but admire the arc pointu, the thick white oak and the dark forged steel of the portal. The Builders did well in their creation - producing everything on site from raw material. I smile to the guards who salute smartly and return to marbelesquity. Their solidity conceals the vicious and efficient protector beneath. The guards are the eliet cadre of graduated plebians who chose guard school rather than academy instruction. They don't graduate to leave, they graduate to remain and to protect. I walk into the gothic hall bedecked with hand-made linen tapestries depicting events of every period of history, and objets de l'art sitting upon their bases lining the walls between doors. At the far end of the hall is another door, more impressive and heavily guarded than the first. It leads to the heart of the academy, The Hall of Honor.

Here, all graduates, Plebian, Pupil and Patrician, must defend themselves from one accusation - that they ae not worthy of the title 'gentleman.' They must face accusations from their peers, their betters and their subordinates. They must submit to academic questioning and flawless recital from memory fit to drive many insane with the discipline and mastery required to succeed. In the Hall, all men break and become honest; all men must defend themselves, their right to exist as a man. No verdict is passed save only worthiness of higher study, or not. This is the right of passage into the higher ranks of the academy. A plebian who graduates after five years may become a pupil, or a guard, or he may leave the academy as a minor graduate. A pupil is a first year, second year and so on to tenth year. At this point he may leave the academy as a master of his craft, whatever it is he selected years prior, or he may sue for patriciancy and become an instructor at the academy. after thirty years as a patrician, the gentleman is arrested, confined and given many hours to prepare to answer the accusations against him. He has done this thrice before, once to become a plebian fourty five years ago, once to become a pupil fourty years ago, and once to become a patrician, thirty years ago. First for twenty-four hours, then for fourty-eight, then seventy-two, now for seven days, he is allowed no human contact other than his food door opening to reveal a meal of bread and water twice a day. He is warm, comfortable, hungry and alone. Atfer this cleansing, he stands in the Hall to become, or not become, a Pater Magnus - great father - of the academy. Pater Magnus holds his office until death or dishonor. Now he commands the academy with the other Pater Magnii.

I turn to another corridor as I pass the door to the Hall. I have been there many times, both as accused in white at the centre, and as accusor in hooded black in the shadows. I have no frivolous memories of that Room.

I open the door to Patrician Hall and am greeted by a shaven plebian in his grey robe and brown leather boots. He smiles and greets me by name and title before taking my books and coat, then escorting me to my table. He politely informs me of the meal and asks after my drink and desert preference before offering a selection of appetizers. I order the meat, cheese and cracker tray with vegetable cuts and ranch, and a nice orangina to drink. I think about the pumpkin pie but decide against it when I remember my martial course with the plebians this afternoon. I then notice my table company.

Jeffery, Master Mason, sits across from me in his dust covered leathers - he is always dusty even at the formal events. To my left sits Benjamin, Master of Textiles, completely absorbed in his thick stew; and to my right sits the aquiline Yitzack, Master of Judaica. Apparently the conversation is wool, specifically the superiority of Israeli over Zealander. Master Yitzack eloquently praised the New Zealanders for their breeding and shepherding techniques while maintianing the Israeli superiority in product. I politely sat silent as I ate my hors d'oeuvers.

After lunch, I decide to take a short walk through the gardens before my next class. I proceed through the library and the cathedral to the grand foyer and out of the tower. The families of the alumni are permitted in the gardens and the east courtyard. A large cobbled platze runs like the Champs Elysee between glass, steel and stone green houses lush with vegetation in sharp contrast to the stark alpine exterior. A few statues line the platze: Aristotle, Moses, Hammurabi, Newton and Einstein. I proceed east a few paces and turn to the botanical gardens. I walk into the air-lock and activate my Brahms MP3 as I await equalization.

My sences brighten as the 30 kPa, 30 percent oxygen atmosphere fills my lungs and the symphony of scent sung by thousands of herbs and flowers, bushes and trees grown for their oil, spice and perfume consumes my olfactory faculties. Brahms sings in my ears, mixing with the sound of song birds and the gentle step-falls further in the greenhouse. I slowly walk by the enormous and paranormally vibrant foliage springing from great hydroponic channels. I can barely contain the vitality running through my veins in contrast to the incomprehensible relaxation beginning to consume my awareness. The filtered sunlight warms my skin and I shed my coat, it is promptly taken by the healthy looking plebian in attendance. His retrieval of my coat brought me from my reverie and I became aware of the myriad people slowly walking about, reveling in the wonderful nature of manipulated nature.  

After three hours of throwing plebians across the dojo in my afternoon martial course, and being thrown dozens of times by the better students, I decide to take my leave to the bath house. It dosen't take me long as I elect to take the sub-lev that I might not be exposed to the alpine blizzard of a late february evening. The families are all out in the sub-pass and it is a nice travel as I see many friends. I enter the bath via the sub-pass and proceed to the steam room for a few minutes. After a nice hot shower, a relaxing bath and massage, I sit in the sauna and doze. A plebian wakes me up

"Sir, your time has expired," He says timidly, he is one of my students.

"Speak like you have a set man." I bark as I pour myself into the locker room. I doze again on the sub-lev as it speeds back to the tower. I knod to the station guards and step into the Patricians' lift - straight to the Patrician's residence. Some elect to live in a house with their families, some elect to live in the Patricians' residence with their wives alone. That is the gentleman's perrogative. I remain un-wed as yet, though there are the possibilities, and so I reside in the Tower. I enter my quarters and proceed straight through the study and sitting room to my smoking lounge. Derrick, an american boy about twelve years old has been assigned to me by the Master of Plebians. He rushes into my smoking lounge as I open the liquor cabinet and pour a small glass of our in-house brandy. I doff my gee into Derrick's waiting arms and wait as he retrieves my house coat and slippers. He helps me into them and I melt into my favorite chair.

"My pipe please Derrick." I slur. He prepares it for me and I smoke a bit before retiring to my bed chambers.

"You did well today Derrick, I look forward to your training." I smile at the boy. He has only recently arrived at the academy and is still adjusting to the subservient lifestyle of the plebian. I was not at his induction ceremony, but I will be at his induction trial in the Hall. Tomorrow morning begins my two month plebian duty.

"Set my wake time at three am please Derrick, then you may retire as well." I yawn at the confused boy.

"Yes sir." he stammers. I let it go: he will learn soon enough. 

I wake to the smell of fresh coffee on a tray with hot biscuts and gravy over two eggs and bacon with a side of toast. I smile at the thought that everything on my tray was produced in the academy by academy alumnui. Leon, the french late-teen who was my first shift plebian, rushed about the room, preparing my things for the day. Leon was well experienced and quite eager, he was due to graduate as a plebian next month and was adamant about his desire to become a patrician. I couldn't wait his trial. I had a great investment in this boy over the last five years and I was anxious to see him succeed.

The news-cast drones in my study; I have outside obligations which require me to know the global happenings; some patricians are almost entirely unknown to the outside world due to their monastic decisions, I envy them but know that their lot, like mine, was not ours to cast. Honor demands our fidelity to duty.

I greedily eat as I read the latest report from my district. I am showered and dressed in a few minutes and I am walking to the plebian residence before four in the morning. I do not enter quietly.

"Wake up scum!" I project through the spartan stone chamber. The plebians look nothing more than lumps of wool on their cots in the torchlight. My 'family' of plebians, like all others, consists of twelve boys of unrelated ages, all shaven bald and given only two woolen robes, one pair of leather boots, six pair of socks, six pair of boxer-briefs and very limited personal effects. They will be brothers for the next five years. I pity their plight.

"You have been here for three days already, why haven't you learned to be ready at four?" I scream as I pull plebians from their beds and toss them to the ground. I spot a smart-ass trying to fake asleep. I grab the boy by his hair and yank him to his feet. He shivers in his boxer-briefs as his bare feet catch the cold stone floor - we don't heat the plebian floor for the psychological effect.

"Wake up useless waste of flesh!" I command into his sleepy, startled eyes and toss him back to his cot. Around the chamber plebians are in various stages of chaos trying to get to general quarters. They are fresh indeed, that requires more discipline. Brutus, my six year old German Shepherd knows this routene and is busy intimidating the boys who've made it to their feet and stand at attention by their cot, teeth bared and throat rumbling threateningly. Within thirty seconds of my entrance, everyone is at the foot of their bed, trying to stand. This will not do.

"All of you, on your faces pushing the deck, now!" I command and push an enormous, twenty-five year-old Nubian to the floor. Brian and Uzi, my personal guards, stand ready to ruin a boy's day if he decides to attack me from behind. Freshman Plebians are prone to violent resistence; I am well trained for it, as will they be once the rebel is educated.

The twelve boys drop to the floor and begin some forms of push- ups, none of them correct. "Stop, damn it, stand up!" I yell melodramatically. The boys climb confusedly to their feet.

"Watch!" I bark as I hit the floor, pushing before the word is formed. "All the way down, all the way up, shoulder width, straight as a board." I chant as I push. After a few, I jump tp my feet and push the boy next to me back down. "Like me!" I shout and plebians hit the floor.

It takes twenty minutes to get all twelve boys to do one perfect push-up in perfect unison, though they all did about sixty. I rouse them to their feet and give them sixty seconds to shower and shave, it takes five minutes. After everyone has robe and boots, we run around the academy three times - that's ten kilometers - and finally have breakfast. I give the family thirty minutes to eat, chat and vent to eachother; they will have to learn to play therapist to eachother for the next five years. I watch carefully that I may select good leaders for the group. I eat with them, though not nearly as much as they, and chat amicably with one or two of them. They are obviously confused by my different characters but they will soon learn. We at the academy take our meals very seriously.

After the meal, with abrupt character change, I toss the boys into instruction. I begin screaming at them, commanding answers to complex math problems, demanding translation of certain phrases and requiring absolutely perfect recitation of information; the idea is to take the boy's speciality and demonstrate to him that he is not a master of his craft, he must know more. This is the academic end of the Plebian induction. These boys were only inducted three days ago and for the next six months, they will exist in a state of perpetual exsaustion and failure. I did it, every gentleman at the academy did it.

The chamber occupied by the twelve boys is the same chamber they will occupy together for the next five years. There are over-night holidays and the wedded boys are required to spend friday and saturday nights with their wives. The rooms are nothing save stone floors, wood and canvas cots and an open wardrobe for each boys' meager posessions. I begin their six o'clock training by destroying this. I find every imaginary short-comming possible and expand it to a nefarious infraction. 

After an hour of futile exercises, the boys and I go out and move rocks. First we walk the now well worn path from the south ridgeline tower to the north ridgeline tower looking for loose rocks that may break off and plummet to the academy below. After securing the real and imagined threats, and beautifying the trail a bit more, we move the retrieved rocks to the quarry-storage arena, there we drop them in piles for the masons - and their plebians - to cut into the various edifii of the academy. We do this until the noon meal.

We eat together, though the boys aren't feeling up to conversation, and my shift for the day ends. I leave the twelve of them in the scriptorium to be introduced to manuscripting and await Master of Mathmatics Vladmir- their second shift patrician.

The life of the plebian is only so rough for the first six months. After that, the boys become  'seasoned plebians' or rather, one who is considered to have learned the general idea of what he must do for the next five years.

After the first three months, the boys have lost all consious reason for wanting to be at the academy. This is when most boys ask to drop-out. They can't. Plebians may not leave the academy grounds without patrician supervision. This entrappment is the realization that all the boys must battle. None of the applicants understands the nature of the 'school' they told their friends it would be fun to go to. The boys are all here voluntarily, or they are too young to have made that decision for themselves. They are however forced to see that they must learn. 'There is no alternative to mastery.' The first three months are designed to destroy the pride, the self-rightousness and the self-delusions of uneducated, un mastered self. This is my favorite time, the three month mark: this is when the boys switch to embryotic men. I have wiped the tears of countless plebians as I listened to their heart-felt pleas for freedom, for respite. I have cried with the boys who must face the inner demons destroying them. I have slapped each and every one of them when they forget a fact.

This time is when I get my friends. I am able to mentor the boys who have been through themselves, I am able to show them to the peace of self-mastery and truth; I am honored to witness the crysalis of a fetal gentleman, to contribute to the developement of a man. I wax poetic.

I am pleased with the new boys, there was only one whiner and he shows promise as princepts filius - first brother. I muse on these thoughts as I proceed through the third floor plebian trancept and enter the library. I inhale the ambience and proceed down the north gangway to the map-platform. Some plebians discuss the effect of geography on the development of Athens with two very amused sixth-years. As they reference the enormous, highly detailed globe dominating and penetraitng the platform, their tutors politely explain to the plebians that they have been well aware of the lessers' arguments for the last eight years. I grin at how opinionated the plebians become after the information they receive in their first two years. My purpose is to view the schematics on display for the new auditorium.

I politely whisper to the plebian on duty and he directs me to a deep chart cubby drawer containing the newest published schematics. I thank the boy and proceed to examine the drawings on a nearby table. It seems as though the electronics passage has indeed been integrated with the stage-control tunnel. I am glad to see the error corrected. I sit back in my stool and allow myself a thought.

I walk through the south-east corridor to the concert-hall. I elect not to go into that acoustically perfect domed-crater but rather proceed to the dramatic auditorium. The newly completed room is vast, consumed by shadow. The dome, unlike that of the concert hall, does not contain a glass dome inset, and so the light of the theatre is entirely artificial-a rare sight in the academy. The entire structure is highly polished, smoke blackened granite. The gas-torchlight house lights add to a void of potential creation nearly palpable to the dramatically inclined. I can hear my own hearbeat in the massive, silent space as I proceed down the main aisle and up onto the stage, my heal clicks on the granite detonating in the acoustically perfect space. I step to the edge of the stage and inhale the essence of acting.

A plebian brushes by me and mutters an apology, waking me from my imagination. I look to the gigantic globe spinning at the command of a twenty-something seventh-year, his skeletal hand gripping the brass lever.